Cookbook Review: During the last several weeks I hope you’ve had a joyful holiday season as well as time to try out some of the recipes I suggested from my last cookbook review on The Get ‘Em Girls Guide to the Power of Cuisine . Since then, I’ve picked up another cookbook by one of my favorite Food Network personalities – Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa.
 I love watching Barefoot Contessa because Ina Garten’s food always seems simple, yet elegant and stylish. Also, I love her story of how she worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget, but then left to purchase a specialty food shop called Barefoot Contessa in the Hamptons. Over twenty years later she has built and sold a successful food store, written multiple cookbooks, and has her own cooking show and a line of food products.
Ina’s latest of six cookbooks, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics , is a gorgeous 272-page hardback full of recipes for cocktail hour, soups, lunch, dinner, vegetables, dessert, and breakfast. As Ina describes it, the cookbook is about “taking ordinary ingredients and cooking them – or pairing them – in a way that “unlocks” their true flavors.” The photography in the books is beautiful and inspiring, and most of the recipes have an accompanying photo.
One of the best aspects about this cookbook that I like is Ina’s informative and motivating introduction on cooking seasonally and cooking for flavor, along with her lists of tips on cooking and entertaining at the beginning of each chapter. For example, she share’s 10 No-Cook Things to Serve with Drinks, How to Arrange Flowers Like a Pro, and 10 Things Not to Serve at a Dinner Party.
Now while the book is called Back to Basics, some of the recipes are easy or simple to make and others require a little more time and patience, however, the rewards of an extremely flavorful dish await you. I tried several of the recipes and I’m looking forwarded to trying many more, including the Tuscan lemon chicken, baked shrimp scampi, mustard-roasted fish, wild mushroom risotto, French chocolate bark, and honey vanilla pound cake just to name a few. For those of you who eat red meat (in moderation of course), Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics  also has recipes for an elegant pot roast and Niman Ranch  burgers.
One of the recipes that I tried from the cookbook was chicken bouillabaisse, a stew of chicken, potatoes and French flavors including white wine and Pernod – a star anise flavored liquor. I also made Ina’s parmesan thyme crackers, which were delicious and would be great to serve as an appetizer or cocktail party hors d’ oeuvre. Other recipes I tested from the cookbook included roasted shrimp, maple-roasted butternut squash, county French omelets, roasted parsnips and carrots, and buttermilk cheddar biscuits.
The buttermilk cheddar biscuits were wonderful and are pretty easy to make as long as you have a stand mixer or food processor (which you should if you cook regularly, as I hope you do). Her recipe calls for making the biscuits using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Since, I’m still waiting to retire my hand-me-down mixer and purchase a new one with a paddle attachment , I tried out the recipe using my food processor  and it worked like a charm (follow similar steps in a food processor recipe for scones or biscuits).
Ina includes this recipe in her chapter on breakfast, but I think the biscuits also go well with dishes for dinner or lunch such as soups and salads. Be sure to use quality ingredients such as organic dairy and unbleached all-purpose flour.
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
By Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics